Vomiting can occur for many different reasons, but no matter why it is happening it needs to be addressed. Not only does it make the person who is vomiting feel miserable, it can also cause dehydration or the inability to take in adequate nutrition. Vomiting in the elderly can be serious because older people are more likely to have underlying health problems that can be made worse by throwing up or that may impact how the vomiting can be treated. Other age-related problems can make a person who is ill have more trouble coping with the effects of vomiting.
One of the more serious concerns related to vomiting in the elderly is that older people, especially those who are in a weakened condition, do not have good reflexes to protect their airway when they vomit. This means that it may be very easy for an older person to aspirate, or breathe in, some of the stomach contents during the process of throwing up. Stomach acid can destroy lung tissue, and the aspiration of such material can cause pneumonia that can potentially be fatal.
When an older person has underlying health problems such as heart or other circulatory difficulties, cancer, a compromised immune system, or any other issue, the inability to eat or drink can quickly become serious. Vomiting can cause patients who are already run down to become so weak that they become bedridden or develop symptoms of previously unrecognized health problems. People who must take medications to control chronic illness may not be able to do so, which can cause those illnesses to flare up.
Dehydration is one of the more serious problems that vomiting in the elderly may lead to. Seniors who cannot consume enough liquids can many times become dehydrated very quickly. This can lead to many different problems and can easily become life threatening. Elderly people who become dehydrated may have hot, dry skin, become lethargic, and can possibly even hallucinate.
When vomiting in the elderly is a concern, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible. While this is not always necessary for a short period of vomiting, in some people even once may be too much. It is generally best to at least speak with a medical professional by phone, and follow the directions carefully to prevent further problems. If the vomiting is excessive it is often best to go to the emergency room without delay.